California bill would set rules on license plate readers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/17/2014

A California state lawmaker is renewing his push to impose rules on a growing trend to track drivers’ movements through automated license plate readers.

High-tech cameras to capture the date, time and location by scanning vehicles as they pass are used in some capacity by about 600 local and state police departments and other state and federal agencies, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Private companies, such as repossession companies, also use the technology that can capture about 1,800 images per minute.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-Mateo, has filed a bill for consideration during the regular session that begins Jan. 6 to regulate use of the technology by the public and private sector.

Hill’s bill, SB34, is a reintroduction of a bill considered during the 2014 regular session to require entities using automated license plate readers, or ALPRs, to post privacy policies online. Entities would also be required to set time limits for how long data can be kept.

In addition, logs must be kept to keep track of each instance the license data is accessed.

The California Highway Patrol is already prohibited from selling information collected for private use.

“ALPR technology has become a critical component of modern policing, but as use of the technology has increased, so has the concern over civil liberties and Californians’ fundamental right to privacy,” Hill said in previous remarks.

State lawmakers around the country acted this year to address concerns about automated license plate readers. States with new laws include:

Utah – allows private companies, such as repossession companies, to take photos and store them for as long as they like. However, state agencies couldn’t buy data from any businesses that keep photos for longer than 30 days. In addition, data kept by law enforcement must be purged after nine months.

Tennessee – permits local police departments and the Department of Public Safety to keep data for 90 days. The time limit will not apply to records related to crimes.

Colorado – requires camera data to be destroyed after three years.

Florida – implements a statewide policy to prohibit making information available to open records. A vehicle owner could also gain access to his or her own information.

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